A good family friend has requested a post about dressing appropriate to your age, and I am more than happy to put off my reading to write it. I’ve been meaning to talk about the differences in what is acceptable for women in Spain versus for women in the United States.

First, the rules in the States. In the US, women are expected to dress more conservatively as they get older, or maybe a better word is modestly. Because our bodies tend to change in ways that are less-than-flattering as we age, we try to dress to cover up our flaws. And even if we maintain a great body by some miracle, our society expects us to not flaunt it too much. Not to say that older women can’t show off a great silhouette. Quite the opposite, actually. There are ways of giving a not-quite-perfect figure the appearance of one by dressing the right way.

So American women (I focus on women because men’s fashion tends to stay the same at almost any age) wear clothes a little looser and longer, more classic and less trendy. Anyone who has seen TLC’s What Not to Wear with Stacey London and Clinton Kelly know that they forbid miniskirts after age 35. This probably also applies to the thigh-high boots that are very fashionable right now.

But in Spain, at least in Madrid, these rules do not apply. I frequently walk into the metro station, eyes lowered to avoid awkward eye-contact, and I notice adorable fringed heels. Then my gaze travels up lace-stockinged legs to a chic overcoat and belted, emerald green shift dress. The wearer completes her ensemble with a feather headband and iPod. The wearer was also in her late-30s/early 40s. Okay, so that doesn’t sound all THAT young, but if I had been brave enough to snap a photo, you would understand.

Here’s another example: I walk into the metro, spot some fab high-top sneakers, not dissimilar to the silver ones I own, but brightly colored. They are topped by tight matchstick jeans, a tunic-length t-shirt and cropped leather jacket. But the woman wearing this outfit is not in her teens, like I expected. Not even her 20s. The model is in her 60s. I also saw a woman in her 50s or 60s with a lip piercing and a monroe piercing. She was wearing a smart skirt-suit.

Those are a couple extreme examples, but they are far from uncommon. The spanish women are very trendy. They wear short skirts and dresses, tight jeans, high heels and higher boots. And they pull it off well. As you can see, I usually spot an outfit from the bottom up and notice the face of its wearer last. More often than not, I am surprised at the age of this lady. But that doesn’t mean the outfit becomes bad. I just have more respect for the woman, or at least her boldness and bravery.

So maybe American women should take a tip from the Spanish women. By that, I don’t mean start shopping in the junior section. Rather, I mean if you see something you like, but think might be “too young” for you, try it, with some modifications. For example, my mother (a very stylish, but body-conscious lady) has asked me if she could try wearing leggings. Most women would guffaw and say that leggings aren’t just for a certain age, but also a specific size.

However, it can easily be done. With leggings, you need to wear something looser on top. The top should also be long enough to cover your butt. For older or bigger women the top should be even longer, reaching mid-thigh at least. That actually is a great way to wear summer dresses during the winter. A short skirt or dress with a jacket or sweater makes a great option to top leggings.

I’m sure you can think of other creative ways to wear other trends reserved for the younger crowd. If not, I’ll have some more tips and InStyle magazine usually has good ideas as well. Another place to check out is Zara. It’s a HUGE international clothing chain started here in Spain.

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